Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Welcome to Another Planet

Since we stopped watching television, one of the ways we've filled the entertainment vacuum has been through Netflix. If you are a Netflix user, you know that they give you recommendations based on other movies you've watched and rated. Quite often we pick our movies based on those recommendations, and it's led to some wonderful surprises.

Last weekend I sat down to watch one that they said I would really enjoy. It tells the story of two young men who escape from one of those desert survival camps that troubled kids are sent to. On their way across the desert they bump into two bumbling Mormon missionaries, steal their car, and head into town. They are forced to take on the role of said missionaries while they wait for the heat from their escape to die down.

Seemed like a funny premise.

Unfortunately, the move didn't pan out that way. Instead, the plot was full of holes, the acting was poor, the dialogue stilted, the characters unbelievable. Mostly because it was made by a Mormon, and reflected a lot of Mormon values. So you have hard-core bullies, rough-and-tumble types, who swear by saying "freakin'" instead of the other words that they would really say. And, in one of the climactic scene, the "bad guys" of the town (the redneck-types) decide to take out their vengeance against the "sissy" missionaries by . . are you ready for this? . . .taking them out into an orchard and challenging them to a paintball tournament. Right. That's how small-town bullies deal with people they don't like. They shoot them with paintballs.

At first, I was miffed at the fact that I had been tricked into watching a Mormon propaganda film. Like they had snuck one over on me. And there were times throughout the movie that I was starting to be offended by it, such as the scene when the cute waitress says "Sometimes people look at my uniform and don't see the person me inside - I guess waitresses and Mormon missionaries have a lot in common."

But then I got to thinking that it's really no different from when Paul Crouch makes a TBN movie and sells it as "First-Rate Entertainment!" when we all know that it really stinks. They are so caught up in their little world that they have no idea how to crawl out and see what the rest of the world is doing, and thus could never make a "realistic" movie. So it probably was with this one. Perhaps the director had not ulterior motive, no great desire to "push" Mormon doctrine on the world. Perhaps he's just so deeply entrenched in the culture that he has no clue how the rest of the world works. Maybe he does think that bad boys do say "freakin," and bullies do take their vengeance with paintball. Maybe.

What's most odd is listening to the director and various actors on the bonus featurette, all saying things like "I was drawn to this script because of it's realism. . ." and such. Are they just saying those things because they want the movie to sell? Or because they actually believe it? I hope it's not the latter.

So, anyway, that was my experience with Mormon culture over the weekend. Please don't misunderstand me - Mormons have as much a right as anybody to make movies. They have the right to believe what they believe. And they have the right to try to tell me about it. But this. . .this felt the bait-and-switch move. Which, granted, we as Christians do often enough. I've just become so sensitive to it that I make every effort to NOT pull it off (you know - offering FREE PIZZA to teenagers and then forcing them to sit through a gospel presentation that they didn't know was coming, or inviting your friends over for dinner and then saying "while you're here, I have a little business opportunity I'd love to tell you about. . ."). Thus, when it comes my way, I'm more than a little bothered by it.

The moral? No more movies about Mormons from Netflix.

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